California chronicler Huell Howser was an intensely private man who didn’t want a memorial service – and his closest friends are determined not to hold one.
“There’s not going to be any service – either public or private,” said Howser’s spokesman, Ryan Morris. “There are people planning things, but anyone close to Huell is not going to attend any of those.”
Howser, who died on Sunday after a two-year battle with cancer, said he didn’t even want to have a funeral, Morris said.
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“Huell was very serious about not having any tributes, any funerals, any memorials ,” Morris said. “He didn’t want to draw attention to himself.”
Howser was so private that he didn’t even tell close associates what type of cancer he had, Morris said.
But the spokesman did confirm that it was a form of cancer that killed the legendary host of public television’s long-running series, “California's Gold.”
When he got the diagnosis about two years ago, Morris said, Howser began the process of donating nearly everything he owned to Chapman University in Orange, where he also established a scholarship.
Soon, moving trucks were pulling up in front of the storyteller’s home, to be set up again in the library at Chapman.
The best way to honor him, Morris said, would be to visit Chapman's libary, where much of the art is already on view, and video of Howser's programs are available online.
Howser moved to Los Angeles in 1981. The Tennessee native worked at a television station in Nashville before serving in the Marine Corps.
He worked at WCBS in New York before moving to LA. "California's Gold" became the best known of Howser's magazine-style TV shows about his travels in the state, but he also hosted "Visiting with Huell Howser," "Road Trip with Huell Howser" and other programs.
Howser, who lived in Twenty-Nine Palms and Los Angeles, was known for his friendly style during his behind-the-scene interviews at restaurants, historic sites, schools and other community institutions.
His style was described as "magnificently unslick" by LA Times columnist Howard Rosenberg.
"We operate on the premise that TV isn’t brain surgery. People’s stories are what it’s all about," Howser said in a post on CalGold.com, the website of Huell Howser Productions. "If you have a good story, it doesn’t have to be overproduced. I want our stories to reveal the wonders of the human spirit and the richness of life in California, including its history, people, culture and natural wonders."
Howser's programs were broadcast on KCET in Southern California. A statement on the station's website described Howser as a host who "elevated the simple joys and undiscovered nuggets of living in our great state. He made the magnificence and power of nature seem accessible by bringing it into our living rooms. Most importantly, he reminded us to find the magic and wonderment in our lives every day."
In September 2011, Howser announced that he planned to donate his "California's Gold" episodes to Chapman University in Orange. The donation includes show episodes, papers and memorabilia related to the show.
The items are part of the Huell Howser Archive. Howser selected Chapman University because the school's president, James Doti, sent him a note to apologize after failing to connect with Howser during his visit to Orange.
"That really impressed me -- in this hectic world, to get a personal letter signed by the university president," Howser said of the letter. "That’s the kind of personal contact that resonates with me. It got me thinking about the legacy of my work and how I wanted it to become available to a wider audience."
On Monday afternoon, Chapman University President James L. Doti released the following statement:
"Huell Howser was a beloved California icon, a true original and a truly good man. It has been a real privilege in these past few years to become his friend and to share in his immense enthusiasm for life and for everything around him. He loved California so very much, and above all he loved people: their life stories, their interests, their passions. And, of course, people adored him with equal intensity."